When Microsoft first introduced Vista, one of the new features that was introduced along with it was the Windows Experience index. The basic idea was that the performance of various system components was rated and assigned a numerical score. The lowest score represented your overall Windows Experience Index.
At the time, Microsoft wanted to simplify things for home users by getting software publishers to list a minimum experience index rating for applications rather than firm hardware requirements. In other words, if an application required a minimum score of 2.0, and your computer was rated at 3.0, then you could be guaranteed that the application would work. Well, that was the theory anyway. Ultimately, I don’t know of any software publishers that actually began using the Windows Experience Index.
Although nobody really uses the Windows Experience Index to determine what applications they can perform, I do use it to test the effectiveness of hardware upgrades on my primary workstation. Tonight something interesting happened though. My computer previously had scores ranging from 5.0 to 5.9 and had an overall score of 5.0. I ended up replacing the system board, the CPU, the power supply, and the graphics card. This time when checked the Windows Experience Index, all of my scores were 5.9.
What I didn’t realize is that in Windows Vista, the scores are capped at 5.9. No matter how good your hardware is, you will never score higher than 5.9. This means that there will eventually come a time when the Windows Experience Index becomes meaningless as a benchmark because of improvements in hardware. Windows 7 also includes the Windows Experience Index, and the maximum score has been raised to 7.9. Even so, I have to question the effectiveness of the index if it is capped. Oh well, I guess that’s what the Performance Monitor is for.